The floral market is a $100B industry globally. Despite the market size, floriculture is one of the most competitive, cut-throat niches in the world. Flowers are frail, need to be carefully refrigerated when transported, and florists see the most sales and the most competition around holidays.
In fact, it’s so difficult to succeed in this particular market that despite its popularity as a business, and opportunity for growth, people rarely, if ever, quit their day jobs and opt to start-up a floral business from scratch – that too without any formal training.
But that’s precisely what florist partners, and friends, Iverina and Sheau Chyn did.
Today, with their out-of-the-box aesthetic style, a fine eye for detailing and an artistic inclination that puts many to shame, Ina and Shea and their floral creations set them apart in rooms full of renowned florists from around the world.
Retail merchandisers and corporate workers by profession, both Ina and Shea left their respective jobs to look for something more meaningful. They found their calling in flowers and floriculture.
From learning lessons in London to running a small, home-based floral studio, to owning one of the most profitable, up and coming floral boutiques in Singapore, their journey has been nothing short of interesting and eventful.
In a particularly insightful conversation, these floral partners extraordinaire share with us some of the more seemingly insignificant business decisions which have enormous impacts.
Learning, and then Learning Some More
A corporate worker has some savings, a keen interest in business and a desire to step out of the traditional 9-5 in order to accomplish something for themselves. In 99% of such scenarios, the end result is the same – the beginnings of a small business.
However, often times, the small business is not quite as well-thought out as it needs to be in order to be sustainable and successful long-term.
According to master florists Ina and Shea, having some savings and an entrepreneurial vision isn’t enough. You have to know the ins and outs of what you want to do before you actually begin working towards it. Learning on the job is one thing – but knowing the industry is an entirely different pot of flowers.
Ina had had some prior experience in the industry, having worked with other florists. Shea started from the ground up, seeking florist courses in Hong Kong before turning her gaze higher. They both travelled to London to take part in both Basic and Advanced Floral Training courses, to increase their knowledge and know-how about the multi-billion dollar industry. The courses didn’t come cheap, but it was worth it to learn at the best flower schools in London.
After completing industry-specific courses from various places, the two began to work out the nitty-gritty of running the business. There was a deliberate goal of regular learning – the basics, the advanced stuff, the niche nitty-gritty, until you reach a point where you are satisfied with your success, and the trajectory your business seems to follow. Till then, it’s learning, and learning some more.
It’s appropriate that the whole business started when they both attended their first floral class together.
Are Brick & Mortar stores necessary?
After six months of working from their home studio, the two were beginning to make a name within their community. More importantly, the hardy duo had gathered enough seed capital to put together and opened their own retail store.
At a time when people look online first for shopping, and 1800-Flowers is dominating America with online orders, Ina & Shea have praise for the physical storefront.
‘People will tell you, you don’t need a shop, all you need is a website – that’s not true. Having a physical store is still very important.… ever since we’ve had one, we do more retail (selling) and have more walk-ins.’
Opening your own retail space may attract criticism and well-meaning advice from associates who think they know better. While it’s important to openly consider suggestions, business owners should also look at their short and long term goals to decide if a retail space is worth their investment.
Ina.Shea’s retail space was a crucial milestone for them due to their line up of projects. It also
As much as the world has moved in the digital direction, a website and well-managed Instagram profile will only do so much. A retail studio is a great way to expand your brand if it’s within your business’ financial means. Physical presence for your business can help to cement a loyal consumer base by giving you more opportunities to interact with your customers – which brings us to their next takeaway lesson:
It’s Not Customer Selling, its Consumer Relationship Building
‘…encourage more communication with the customers’
When someone offers you sound advice, especially pertaining to your own business within the same industry – you listen. And this, this is sound advice.
Ina and Shea feel very strongly about differentiating between conventional customer selling where all one focuses on is securing a sale and building, or even curating lasting consumer relationships for loyalty and longevity.
A brick and mortar store allows more foot fall and drives more traffic to your business. It encourages walk-ins to drop by and take a look at the new store round the block and it gives the owners the opportunity to communicate freely with their target audience. Just by being receptive towards customers, you can build their trust in your and your brand. Not only that, but you can also increase your profitability exponentially because loyal customers – especially those who become more like friends – means that not only have you secured yourself recurring consumers for a lifetime, you also have customers who will bring in a huge amount of new business through word of mouth advertising and referrals. And we all know that word-of-mouth advertising is still the most effective marketing strategy that has ever existed.
Though by their own admission, INA SHEA is still in its developing stages, we’d say they’re definitely moving in the right direction. So for all you florists and floral enthusiasts that are venturing into the industry, try and learn a thing or two from the industry experts who are taking this particular niche by storm. Better yet, if you’re around Upper Thomson Road, Singapore, drop in and say hi!
Check out other merchant stories on the CandyBar blog for more inspiration.